Friday, December 30, 2011

Cauliflower Salad and Delicious Honey Oat Quick Bread

If you've been indulging a bit much over the holidays, here a few healthier dishes to help kick-start the new year!  The cauliflower salad offers a cheery burst of colors and the honey oat quick bread is just slightly sweet--it almost tastes like a yeast bread.  Together they make a nice, light meal.

Honey Cauliflower Chopped Salad for a Crowd
1 small head cauliflower, broken into small (1/4-1/2 inch pieces)
1 red pepper, in 1/4-1/2 inch dice
1 green pepper, in a 1/4-1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup black olives, sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed is nice)
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind (optional)
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar (could substitute red wine vinegar or cider vinegar)
1/4-1/2 cup honey (I used amber, summer honey; spring honey would also be good)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper

Combine the vegetables, onion and olives in a bowl.  Place the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well to combine.  (Start with 1/4 cup honey.)  Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss well.  Refrigerate for about an hour to let the flavors meld.  Taste and add more honey (or salt and pepper).  Can serve cold or at room temperature. Serves 8-10.

Honey Oat Quick Bread
This is adapted from an Eating Well recipe, which appeared in the January/February 2007 issue.  Check out the reviews at the link above.

2 tablespoons plus 1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
8 ounces yogurt (low fat is fine)
1 large egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey (I used amber summer honey but fall honey would be lovely, too!)
3/4 cup low or nonfat milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in the middle position.  Lightly oil 9 by 5 inch loaf pan.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon oats in pan, covering bottom and, as best you can, sides.  Whisk the flours, baking powder, soda and salt together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, beat 1 cup of the oats, yogurt, egg, oil and honey, mixing well.  Stir in the milk.  Stir this into the flour, gently mixing until combined--taking care not to over-mix.  You want the batter to be combined so that everything is moist, but don't beat it.  Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth to the edges.  Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of oats on the top.  Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes until the loaf is very brown.  The top will crack. To test that it's done, insert a toothpick in the crack--if it comes out clean, it's ready!  Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes then loosen with a bread knife.  This is great toasted the next day! Makes 1 loaf--or about 12 1-inch slices.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Honey-Kissed Challah

This is a gorgeous loaf of bread that is surprisingly easy to make.  The hardest part is braiding the very soft dough.  Be sure to check out the link in the directions below for a great step-by-step guide to braiding challah.  This recipe is adapted from one in the 2010 Cooking Light Best Holiday Recipes edition.

3 tablespoons honey (I used amber summer honey)
1 cup warm water
pinch of saffron threads, crushed
1 package rapid-rise yeast
3 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 1/2-4 cups bread flour, divided
cornmeal (about a teaspoon)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon water
1/4-1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

Making the dough:
In the bowl of a standing mixer, stir honey and saffron into warm water and mix well until honey dissolves.  Sprinkle yeast over water and let sit for 5 minutes, until dissolved (and foamy).  Add butter, salt and egg and mix well with a whisk.  Add 3 cups of flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Knead with the dough hook attachment on medium speed for about 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed until the dough begins to flap against the side of the bowl.  This will be a very soft dough, though smooth and elastic.  (You can also knead by hand, adding flour as needed.  If kneading by hand, knead for about 8 minutes.)

Three Risings:
With floured hands, form dough into a ball and place in a large bowl that's been lightly sprayed with cooking oil.  Cover and let rise in a warm place* until doubled in size -- about 40 minutes. Gently fold dough in on itself a few times and re-form into a ball.  Cover and let rise another 40 minutes until doubled again.  Again fold dough in on itself a few times and let sit for 15 minutes.   Preheat the oven to 375. (The third rising happens after you form the loaf--see below.)

*In the winter, when it's hard to find a warm, draft-free spot in our house, I place the rising bread dough in our oven, which has been slightly heated.  I turn the oven on to the lowest temperature--170--and let it heat for a few minutes.  I turn the oven off and place the covered bowl of dough in the center.  Another trick is to bring 1/2 cup of water to boiling in a microwave oven. Place the covered bowl of dough in the microwave along with the hot water.

Forming the loaf:
Divide dough into three equal pieces.  Form each into a rope about 18 inches long, with slightly tapered ends.  Dust a parchment-lined cookie sheet with the cornmeal.  Place the ropes on the parchment, overlapping each in the middle, then braid down each side. Tuck in the ends.  (For great braiding instructions, check out this link to Pinch My Salt.) 

Mix the egg yolk with the 1 teaspoon of water and lightly brush the whole loaf.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Bake in the 375 preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the loaf is a rich golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.  Cool on a wire rack.  This bread is best eaten the day it's made.  Makes about 12 1-inch slices.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Honey Pot Roast for Christmas (Eve) Dinner

This is pull-apart-with-a-fork tender pot roast, lightly sweetened with honey.  We'll be serving it for Christmas Eve dinner this year.  We got the chuck roast from McElhaney Family Farm in Hookstown--a wonderful source for locally raised beef!

I adapted this from the National Honey Board's recipe for Irish Honey Pot Roast.  We just fiddled a bit with it! :)  I made it a day ahead and will let the meat cool in its juices, so to speak.  I'll reheat it in a slow cooker on low for a few hours before serving.

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 to 5 lb chuck roast
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup honey (I used summer amber honey)
1 cup apple cider (you could substitute ale)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 cups carrots, peeled and cut in in 2 x 1/2 inch pieces (approx.)
2 cups parsnips, peeled and cut like the carrots
2 cups leeks, well-cleaned and cut like the carrots
2 cups potatoes, peeled and cut in 2 inch chunks
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Salt and pepper the meat, coating thoroughly.  Dredge the meat in the flour.  Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium high flame.  Sear the meat on all sides--letting brown very well on the two largest sides (about 5 minutes each side).  Gently heat the broth, cider and honey and stir well to thoroughly combine.  Add this to the Dutch oven along with the garlic and thyme.  Seal with aluminum foil and place the lid on top.  Roast for 1 1/2 hours.  Add the vegetables (they'll pile high on top--but not to worry, they'll cook down).  Seal again with foil, add the top and roast for another hour or so until the vegetables are soft and the meat is tender.  At this point, you can remove the vegetables to a serving dish and place the meat on top, spooning the broth over all.  If you'd like a thicker gravy, you can place the Dutch oven on the stove and bring it to a boil.  Combine about 1/4 cup flour, a bit of salt and pepper and 1/2 cup cold water in a jar with a lid and shake well.  Add the flour mixture to the boiling broth and stir until the gravy thickens.  Taste for seasoning and either pour the gravy over the meat and vegetables or serve on the side.

Make ahead:  Once the meat and vegetables have cooked, remove them from the Dutch oven, placing the meat in a slow cooker with the broth and the vegetables in another dish.  Cool and then refrigerate overnight.  About three hours before serving, remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.  Place the meat in the slow cooker and heat on low about two hours.  Add the vegetables about hour before serving (or cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until heated through).  This recipe serves between 8 and 10 people.

The National Board's recipe notes the whole thing can be made in a slow cooker:  Place the vegetables in the cooker, brown the roast and place it on top of the vegetables.  Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Honey Cashew Butter Cookies

Looking for a cookie to put out for Santa?  You could do worse than these honey cashew butter cookies, adapted from a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens 2011 Christmas Cookie book.

1/2 cup roasted cashew butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup summer (amber) honey
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4ths cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped cashews (optional)

In a large bowl, beat cashew butter and butter until thoroughly blended and fluffy.  Add the sugar and honey and combine thoroughly.  Add the egg and mix well.  Stir in the vanilla extract and combine.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, baking powder and salt.  Add this to the cashew butter mixture, and mix to combine well.  Add the chopped cashews if using.  Cover and chill dough for about 30 minutes.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls and place them about 2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  (If you decide not to use parchment, no need to grease the cookie sheets.)  This is a very soft dough, so if after 30 minutes of chilling, it's still difficult to form into balls, add another 1/8th to 1/4th cup of flour.  Flatten the balls by making criss crosses with the tines of a fork dipped in flour.  Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes until the cookies are lightly browned on the bottom and taking care not to over-bake.  Let cool for about a minute on the cookie sheet before transferring them to a cooling rack.  Store at room temperature and tightly covered for up to five days, or wrap well and freeze for up to three months. Makes about 50 cookies

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Update on What's Missing from Commercial Honey?

The NPR food blog, "The Salt," offers another take on the "What's Missing from Commercial Honey?" story, noting that ultra-filtering (which many producers do to remove all particles--including pollen) is a common practice.  This doesn't mean that honey without pollen isn't honey; it does mean (at least from our perspective) that some of the good stuff that makes honey honey gets filtered out.  Large producers ultra-filter honey to slow the crystallization process. Honey that crystallizes quickly hasn't been filtered.

For more information on what's in honey, check out previous blog posts:  Sorting out honey terms and What exactly is honey?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What's Missing from Commercial Honey?

Take a listen to Living on Earth's broadcast, What's Missing from Commercial Honey?  It aired on 90.5 FM, (Essential Public Radio) on Sunday morning, December 4, 2011.

Professor Vaughn Bryant, of Texas A&M University, was asked by Food Safety News to test honey sold under various commercial names in the US and he found that 3/4ths of the honey tested did not contain pollen.  Click on the Food Safety News link above for the full story.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Celebrating Lawrenceville's Joy of Cookies Tour

In honor of Lawrenceville's Annual Joy of Cookies Tour this weekend, here's a recipe for honey almond biscotti to add to the cookie fest.  (Also see our previous post for some great honey ginger bread cookies!)  If you head to the Joy of Cookies Tour, be sure to check out The Gallery on 43rd Street.  Proprietor, Mary Coleman, offers a wonderful array of local artists' works and is selling our honey--highlighted in a recent I Heart Pittsburgh blog post!

Biscotti are difficult to pull off when honey is in the recipe because honey tends to soften baked goods, especially after a few days.  If you have a biscotti recipe that uses lots of sugar, it’s probably wise not to try to replace the sugar in that recipe with honey.  This recipe works well, though, and the flavor is fantastic.  You can also use this recipe as a base and experiment with other flavors. It’s adapted from Ann Harmon’s “Home Harmony” column in Bee Culture (June 1998).

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup honey (basic summer honey works well)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons anise seeds (sounds like a lot but is perfect amount!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup slivered almonds

Heat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease one cookie sheet. Cream butter and honey until well-blended and light lemony color.  Add eggs one at a time and combine well.  Add vanilla and fully incorporate.

Whisk flour, cinnamon, anise, salt, baking powder and baking soda together and slowly add to batter.  Mix well.  Stir in almonds.

On a floured board, divide dough in half and form each half into 10x3x1 inch logs.  Place on cookie sheet, about 4 inches apart.  Bake 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned and firm to the touch.  Lower oven temp to 300 and cool logs for 5-10 minutes.  Slice on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices and place slice side down on cookie sheet.  Bake 10 minutes.  Flip cookies and bake 10 minutes more.  Cool completely on wire racks.  Store in a well-sealed tin.